Top Baking Trends of 2020: Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Baking Tops Consumer Demand

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Plant-based and gluten-free food trends are nothing new, but they are taking on a life of their own in the baking industry. Consumers are seeking comfort in the desserts they eat on an entirely different level, but they aren’t exactly letting their health or waistlines suffer. And, that’s where these two trends come in handy — consumers can truly have their plant-based or gluten free cake and eat it too. 

Consumers are looking to have fewer ingredients in desserts, leading to dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and clean label offerings, and according to Datassential, 55% of consumers had eaten dessert in the past day, leading to a huge opportunity for innovation in a booming category. Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery noted that consumers are also eating dessert at any time of the day. Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake Co., said that small dessert indulgences and portion sizes also played a major role in 2020. Snackability combined with flexitarian, vegan and plant-based diets were key factors. Eli’s vegan lineup in 2020 included a single-serve and 7-inch Belgian Chocolate Vegan Cheesecake, as well as the new Dairy-Free Vegan Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake. Both are made with non-GMO tofu, sourced locally, according to Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery. Technomic also echoed the bite-sized sentiment, reporting that half of consumers said they preferred baked goods and desserts in individual portions. 

Bakers and Innovation

Almond flour was a trending ingredient this year, and Priscilla Martel, chef and industry food consultant, told Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery that almonds are “versatile ingredients that go into both traditional and gluten-free formulations. With almond flour, you’re dealing with a gluten-free ingredient with a smooth texture, so it’s not gritty like some of the starchier wheat flour alternatives. It can bind water, even though it doesn’t have the protein content of wheat flour, and also has an advantage because so many gluten-free flour blends are often high in starch from soy or corn. Almond flour is an all-natural, ‘free-from’ ingredient, and it has the delicious flavor of almonds.” 

Baked goods that Martel was particularly fond of in using almond flour were those of the egg-foam variety like chiffon cake and carrot cake. 

Plant-based innovation also came from international influences as the LloydPans innovation team reported in our other 2020 trend blog, with exotic spices like Tajín or togarashi making their way into U.S.-based bakeries. Whole grains like spelt, amaranth and rye, and milk alternatives like coconut or oat milk also made a splash this year.

Recognizable Ingredients

Yes, consumers are seeking a flair for the unordinary, but the trend in 2020 leaned more toward a dessert hybrid of sorts — mixing in new flavors with tried and true, recognizable ingredients that taste great. Natural sweeteners, organic ingredients and labels with fewer ingredients drove consumer choice in bakeries. Ted Osorio, corporate chef, General Mills Foodservice, told Bake Magazine: “Consumers want everything from gluten-free to vegan to reduced sugar, but they don’t want to compromise on taste and quality in order to get it.”

ADM’s OutsideVoice℠ proprietary research as reported on by Bake Magazine showed that 60% of consumers say recognizable ingredients influenced their purchase decision, and 66% said they are looking for labels with the shortest ingredient list. In turn, bakers in 2020 looked for ingredients that drove consumer demand, functional experiences and an increased consumer awareness of what they’re eating.

Looking ahead to 2021, experts say that clean label and transparency trends with plant-based and gluten-free audiences will continue, perhaps even on a larger scale. Consumers will be more interested in the entire lifecycle of products, from ingredients sourcing to production to sustainability practices at bakeries. Paula Labine, Marketing Director at ADM, told Bake Magazine that she expects to see “increased demand for products with fewer ingredients on labels, as well as “close to nature’ ingredients such as vanilla or citrus extracts.”

Ready to take on the plant-based, gluten-free trend in 2021? LloydPans is here to help you with our bakeware line, made here in the United States. 

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